Wednesday, September 1, 2021

They're Not Murderers Or Nazis

As a non-American, it was extremely disturbing for me to see the extraordinary rift growing over the last few years between Americans of different political persuasions. I know people on both sides, convinced that Trump was the best/worst president ever, and that people opposing/supporting him were morally bankrupt.

A similar rift is developing on the extremes of the vaccine issue. The mainstream scientific view is that vaccines are safe and should be used by adults, and that masks somewhat reduce the chances of spreading infection; separately, there are also policy decisions regarding how much to impose such things as vaccines, masks and lockdowns and how to weigh them up against other factors (especially regarding children). There are those who disagree with various scientific aspects, or who are misinformed on science aspects, or who disagree with various policy decisions. The extreme view on one side is that anyone who is against the vaccine or who believes that the minimal risks of Covid to children do not justify taking precautions, is utterly evil and should be labelled as a murderer. Conversely, the extreme view on the other side is that anyone who wants to impose precautions, especially on children, that have very little effect of limit infection, is utterly evil and is acting like the Nazis.

I just finished reading an absolutely incredible book that helps enormously with making sense of such things. It's called The Righteous Mind, by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, and the subtitle is Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion - to which one could add, And Coronavirus. The book has enormous ramifications for many different topics that have been discussed here, which I plan to discuss in future posts. For now, I will just describe one of the main themes. 

The author explains how, as a left-wing atheist, he used to think that right-wing and religious people are foolish and evil. However, after studying various cultures in different parts of the world, he realized that morality is a much more complicated topic than he had assumed. Rather than there being a single linear scale along which one can measure good/bad, he identifies six different spheres of morality: Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, Sanctity/Degradation, and Liberty/Oppression. These can sometimes conflict with each other, and there are also differences in the relative weight that people attribute to these different spheres - which has to do not only with cultural variations, but also genetic makeup.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. And if you think that it sounds like a stupid book, because the people on the other side of the political/ religious/ coronavirus spectrum really are stupid and evil, then this is all the more reason why it is important for you to open your mind and read it.


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50 comments:

  1. Well, this is progress, I suppose. Not much, as you deliberately misstate the positions, and disingenuously frame the issue using polarities convenient only to your position. Still, baby steps, right?

    By the way - if you think the rift in Americans only developed during the Trump administration, it shows you to be woefully ignorant of American life (a fact also noticeable in your position on Covid.) You need to start broadening your horizons.

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    1. It's really fascinating how you interpret " extraordinary rift growing over the last few years between Americans of different political persuasions" into " the rift in Americans only developed during the Trump administration"!

      Also - where did you see any "deliberately misstate the positions, and disingenuously frame the issue using polarities convenient only to your position"?!?!?
      RNS went to great lengths to describe "The extreme view on one side" vs "Conversely, the extreme view on the other side".

      It seems look you're just trying to release some negative energy - in which case I'm' sure RNS is glad to be of service :-)

      "Those who have come here to hate should leave now, for in their hatred they only betray themselves." - The introductory statement to The Book of Life as quoted in Confessor by Terry Goodkind

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    2. Potentially you might consider reading these books as well.

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    3. You're being overly critical. Maybe because you didn't like how your side's extremists are characterized? Anyway he doesn't claim to be perfectly rational here, the matter is obviously subjective anyway. I guarantee both sides won't like these caricatures of themselves, and that's usually a good sign that he's not being excessively partial.


      And he never said the rift ONLY developed in the past four years? Who's "deliberately misstating" positions here?

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    4. The issue today is "are you in favor of forcing the vaccine on others" or "are you not". Very simple. Nobody on the pro-choice side gives two hoots about what the other side does, let them stick needles and boosters in their arms all they want and sit huddled in masks for the rest of their lives. This is about freedom of choice. The nonsense the blog host posted in the second paragraph, adding in a ton of qualifiers and self-serving definitions, is just more dishonest spin, an attempt to sound fair-minded while stealthily trying to frame the parameters of debate in favorable terms. Oldest politician trick in the book.

      And look at how suddenly we read here about masks "somewhat" reducing the chances of spreading infection. For 12 months before vaccines all we heard here is how they were the savior of mankind from the scourge of Covid. Now we get a sneaky little change to "somewhat", as though we are now supposed to just forget everything you said beforehand. Your countryman George Orwell would be proud.

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    5. Seems like Mr Schreiber likes to be contrary to Rabbi Dr Nathan, just to be contrary.

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    6. "And look at how suddenly we read here about masks "somewhat" reducing the chances of spreading infection. For 12 months before vaccines all we heard here is how they were the savior of mankind from the scourge of Covid. "

      12 months? Not true. The vaccine arrived in November 2020. That was less then 12 months after the first covid case in the US, certainly less than 12 months before Covid was declared a pandemic. The general mask advisory was not issued until April. What 12 months?
      At all times, health experts advised people to social distance, avoid crowds and wear masks when in public. (Many also recommended increased ventilation- hence outdoor minyanim.) It is true, that the message was ineffective because people got the incorrect notion that they could crowd indoors and wear masks. There was a failure there in getting the message out. But you're simply wrong that the experts put all their faith in masks.

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    7. Baal HaBoss - you don't know me. I never, NEVER, argue with people just to be contrary. I walk away from argument. Just smile and walk away. I have made an exception in this case because the sheer insanity is frightening. First the hysteria of Covid, and now the equally manic pushing of vaccines. Actual thought or thinking has never been part of the decision making process. Any decision made anywhere in the past 18 months - to mask, to shut down, to distance, or to zoom - has been actuated either by self-righteousness or by some irrational combination of fear - fear of Covid, fear of litigation, or fear of appearing not to do enough. Rational thought, in any form, has played no role in any of this. And that is why I have devoted time to this blog and this issue. It's a long shot, but maybe, just maybe, someone out there is honest enough and brave enough, like the book author mentioned in this blog, to reconsider.

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    8. I lovre how this post proves the point...

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  2. This is all very true and very simple. However, these types of conflicts cannot be resolved peacefully because the differences cannot be bridged. A civil war and the extermination of the enemies is the only solution that may save a nation at this point.

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    1. If enough individuals understand the book's message there'll be no armies to do the fighting.

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    2. Will never happen because we cannot all get alone.

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  3. I read The Righteous Mind a number of years ago. It changed the way I look at the world. I also highly recommend it.

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  4. My example for the interaction between different viewpoints is my parents. My mother was a liberal (old fashioned liberal, Truman & JFK, not like today but I still don't "unfriend people because of who they vote for) and my father voted for Barry Goldwater. They loved each other and they loved their children. I'm Orthodox (I wear a shtreimel on shabbos) yet I love all MotTs equally and the Godliest person I know happens to be a Reform woman. I was raised to show people respect no matter their differing viewpoints. It seems that nowadays that makes me a dinosaur. No, I have not gotten the vaccine, so I guess that makes me a psychopath too.

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  5. The extreme view on one side is that anyone who is against the vaccine or who believes that the minimal risks of Covid to children do not justify taking precautions, is utterly evil and should be labelled as a murderer.

    I remind you, Rabbi Slifkin, of your own words:

    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2021/01/mazeltov-murder-tonight.html

    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2021/01/the-chassidic-wedding-murders.html

    I commented, cautioning against the use of the term "murder".

    You alluded to my comment by writing:
    "Some felt that "murder" was too strong a term. I've stated my opposition to referring to anti-vaxxers as murderers. But in this case, where death is a very likely result of such an event, I believe that it is an appropriate term. And I'm not the only person to feel that way - there are prominent people in the charedi world saying the same."

    Is it time to retract your words?

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    1. Some values have to take a hit to make room for some others, that is a fact of life. Doesn't mean that suddenly nothing can be called "murder" anymore. At some point the risks are so high and the rewards so low that it becomes recklessness at best and displays a total disdain for human life at worst.

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    2. Again, and again and again. Even recklessness and disdain for human life....are not murder. I don't understand why a rationalist blog has such trouble with the danger of scope creep.

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    3. It is important to understand why some good people end up being murderers and realize that they are good at heart.

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    4. @mevaseret
      Agreed. I would add that appealing to the fact that "prominent charedis have used over the top hyperbole" in order justify such is a stretch for anyone, not least of all RNS.
      The anti-vax position can be accurately described as dangerous and the current cause of a lot of death, but to consider its adherents murderers is going too far.

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    5. @mevaseret, Do we never talk about drunk drivers as murderers? Or apply that label to negligent child caretakers? Or thyphoid Mary? It may not be murder in the legal sense, but that's a frequent use of the term.

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    6. Yes, vehicular homicide comes to mind when a automobile driver causes a death through negligence or impairment. Also if a caretaker leaves a child in a hot car and the child dies that is negligent homicide. "Negligent homicide is a criminal charge brought against a person who, through criminal negligence, allows another person to die." The key idea is a defendant did not have the intent to kill, but death did occur. In that sense if one had a communicable disease and then inadvertently infected another then I was the cause of that individual's death. That would fall under the rubric of negligent homicide. The problem is that it would be next to impossible to prove who was the vector for the infection, so that is PARTIALLY why you do not see individuals being charged. Finally the word HOMICIDE is synonymous with MURDER just a legal term, so yes drunk drivers are MURDERS.

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  6. There is a great book on the Spanish Civil War 'The Blood of Spain'. It consists of the interviews with representatives of all factions that had fought in the war. What comes out is that all meant well and fought for the justice and the truth as they had perceived it. My grandfather fought for the republic with the communists and escaped Madrid on one of the last planes, but my sympathy is with the Falange. I don't know if there was an alternative to the civil war in 1936. Was there an alternative to the Maccabean revolt? There times when only a bloody revolution can possibly save the nation.

    In public and private discourse I'm respectful to everyone and I understand that people aren't necessarily evil because of their opinions. But a path to hell is paved with good intentions and violence is a legitimate recourse. At the end of the day it's an evolutionary struggle where all means are legitimate and the strongest will prevail.

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  7. I agree that we should try to be more open-minded. However, the vaccines are not safe. Why did the Left side with terrorists (Hamas)? Because they are evil. If you cannot conclude that they are evil because they side with terrorists then you have a big problem.

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    1. You can't think of any right wing terrorists? Etzel and Lehi mean anything to you?

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    2. The Left don't like the fact that they are terrorists but understand that from the Palestinians' perspective, the land has been stolen from beneath their feet.

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    3. Hat, Etzel and Lechi fought for the Jewish independence. Hamad fight for the destruction of Israel. Calling them terrorists doesn't make a difference.

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    4. The land wasn't stolen. It was reclaimed.

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    5. What's the difference whether you are fighting for Jewish and Palestinian independence if you kill civilians?

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    6. No difference, both are perfectly legitimate in my book. This is how wars are fought regardless of what UN or international law say, and everyone knows it. Evolution doesn't have special rules for civilians.

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    7. But the reason I got vaccinated and think it is appropriate to do so is not because "I agree with the left" or whatever they are saying, it's because the data overwhelmingly demonstrates that. I am a rightwinger myself anyway, so I don't care what the left says.
      But judging this issue based on "who says what" is folly. Broken watches can be correct once in a while.

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  8. Dr David Halpern, who ran the UK government behavioural science 'nudge unit', has interesting theories. He thinks all the anri-anti-vax social media commentary serves to strengthen anti-vaxer group identity, to confirm to them that they are a significant proportion of the population, and thereby to make the problem worse than it would otherwise be.

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  9. Yes, a brilliant, perspective-changing book.
    And his chapter "Religion is a Team Sport" might be particularly relevant to those who see their affinity with Rational Judaism (or hostility to) as, in fact, rationally motivated.

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    1. This is an endorsement of the righteous mind by Jonathan Haidt. As a brief Google of this book I have never read confirms all my prejudices and therefore inflates my ego I have no hesitation in adding my endorsement of a book I have never read.

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    2. Were you reacting to something I wrote, in recommending a book that I DID read, to EVERYONE, no matter what their perspective happens to be as regards to Judaism, rationalism, or anything else? If so, I did not understand what you said.

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    3. I spent a few minutes working out what book you were endorsing (hence the googling) so I thought I would save any other reader the time. I also thought (as a result of the googling) that it was a book I would likely agree with as it chimed many of my rantings on this message board, albeit that this was an utterly invalid judgment to make, so I threw that in for good measure.

      I can see how you think this was a comment on you. It wasn't, and I do apologise for the solipsism.

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  10. One needn't be a scientist to realize that this vaccine is having the opposite effect of what it's supposed to do.

    Read the article and see fro yourself.
    https://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/2004934/israel-leads-the-world-in-virus-cases-per-capita-over-past-week.html

    This is precisely why millions are screaming that forcing the vaccine or even encouraging it is idiotic!

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    1. "One needn't be a scientist to realize that this vaccine is having the opposite effect of what it's supposed to do."

      The vaccine was supposed to reduce the chances of severe illness and death.

      The article sort of confirms the vaccine's "effect of what it's supposed to do.":

      "On the positive side, the number of coronavirus patients in serious condition seems to be stabilizing..."
      The percent of infected who are considered in serious condition has been declining.

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    2. Rivkah,

      Duh! 90% of injuries and death in car crashes are to those wearing seat belts. Clearly seat belts don't work.

      Right? Do I need to explain?

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    3. The example of the seatbelt if not analogous at all. Seat belts are not meant to prevent crashes, while vaccines are meant to prevent infection.

      Seat belts are doing their job, in that they lessen death. Vaccines on the other hand are not doing their job and that they are not preventing infection.

      Quite the contrary, it would seem that vaccines are causing immunity to weaken and thereby allowing many many more people to become infected!

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    4. "The vaccine was supposed to reduce the chances of severe illness and death."

      http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2021/02/daas-torah-on-covid-19.html?showComment=1613113399642#c5655761875521813116

      https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/12/15/946714505/fauci-predicts-u-s-could-see-signs-of-herd-immunity-by-late-march-or-early-april

      Nice gaslighting. Don't pretend like herd immunity wasn't a primary goal. Israel, with 80% of its adults fully vaccinated, and 26% of adults triple vaccinated, now has its highest COVID case count ever, and the highest daily infection rate in the world. Only someone willfully ignorant thinks the vaccines are working just as expected.

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    5. "Nice gaslighting."
      Do you know what gaslighting means?

      "Don't pretend like herd immunity wasn't a primary goal."
      It was. The idea was that herd immunity could be achieved through a combination of masking, social distancing, vaccines and those who had already recovered. Even the skeptics believed in herd immunity- though they felt it could be reached without health mandates and/or vaccines. Both the mainstream & the skeptics has been proven wrong.

      That being the case, approval for the vaccine was based on its ability to reduce deaths and severe illness. Initially in late 2020 there were already questions what sort of immunity the vaccines would provide. I myself am disappointed that the trials did not include the secondary endpoint of preventing spread. There were early indications that the vaccine would indeed have some significant impact on spread. But, if you recall, officials warned that the vaccinated should continue to mask & avoid crowds. There was concern and hope. The delta variant and the fact that the vaccinated were not refraining from returning to their pre-pandemic routine proved such early hopes false.

      By the way, you still got the story wrong, not that I blame you. NPR provided a rather sensational headline to the story, but the actual interview is more soberly hopeful than wildly exuberant. There, Fauci talks about early signs of herd immunity in April, but no exit until the end of the year- providing that by July, 75-85% get vaccinated. I think he should have been much more cautious.

      In any case, none of what you wrote supports the erroneous notion that vaccines has made the pandemic worse.

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    6. Rivkah,

      The vaccine has prevented infection to some extent, and serious illness and death to a much larger extent. But by just looking at the position in hospitals gives you a meaningless hysterical statistic. Not to mention you were trying to claim that the vaccine has increased hospitalisations. More nonsense.

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  11. Notice the author of this book, by his own admission, was a leftist, who suddenly realized one day, to his surprise, that the right wing weren't the wackos he had been taught to think they were.

    Such is the case with all lefties, and that most definitely includes this blog (on all issues other Israeli/Arab issues). They are woefully, woefully ignorant of both facts and other perpsectives. They don't even realize the amount of information being suppressed, censored, and unreported. They're even shocked to hear that this is actually happening - as though for some reason this period in history is any different than all other history before us. It is impossible to believe that rational human beings, were they actually aware of the deaths and sicknesses the vaccine has caused, coupled with how almost statistically non-existent the risk of Covid is to most people, would still be urging it on. Impossible.

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    1. I know plenty of people who had died from Covid. Young people among them.

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  12. It's all about an agenda. Some use covid as a guise to attack religion.
    https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/312943

    No reason why restrictions on praying should be more severe than anything else.

    "It ain't rational!"

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  13. Very few people are truly evil. But many, many people are deeply misled.

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  14. Hello Rabbi Dr Rationalist. Can you explain why 2 FDA officials are resigning from the FDA over political interference. Perhaps the head of the FDA Vaccine research and review Department is ignorant and anti vaxxer and doesnt follow the science?

    https://rumble.com/vlymaw-fda-vaccine-official-steps-down-over-political-influence.html?fbclid=IwAR1rrNA5tTgaPaRrJocpg4i99dreJI0-rinhv4W0sqmOFIdrW0FRwL8fCa4

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    1. What this shows is that when there IS inappropriate behavior, people resign. These people were not conspiring until now to hide any dangers.

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    2. I dont understand your logic Rabbi. Those who tout the FDA approval like yourself should be worried when senior officials at the FDA resign because politicians were interfering in the approval process pressuring them to do things against procedure. Thats not science thats politics which is what this whole covid and vaccine coercion is about

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